Disrupting Disruption: Our Need for Evolution in the Music Industry

By Gigi Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of the UCLA Center for Music Innovation

PrintWe live and create in a transformative time.  Our relationships with each other, devices, and our creative work are undergoing massive, permanent transformation.

The recorded music business has shifted from selling physical recordings to “selling” access to digital files. Instead of owning music, we “rent” recorded creative content in exchange for our personal data and attention. Our shared creative experiences now track our behavior. Unseen intermediaries make recommendations and decisions. Only the top 1% of tracks and artists are getting the majority of streams, social media shares, and revenue. Large festivals blossom, yet many local venues are at risk. As creators, musicians, and those who support them, we are racing to catch up to this new attention-selling world.

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How can we shape the technologies changing society’s interaction with music? How can we proactively work together to create healthy future ecosystems for artists, fans, and others in the music industry?

In 2014, we launched the UCLA Center for Music Innovation at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to wrestle with these core questions. We bring leading voices together to explore how new tech, time, place, data, connectivity, rights, politics, live events, global trends, and oligopolies are changing music — and how we can cooperate to shape the future of music together.

This year, in the theme of Music 2020, the Center asks what pressures, frictions, and innovations are driving the music industry in the next 4 to 5 years. We began this conversation in March 2016 with a panel of music industry experts at South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival, where we dove into the data and trends driving the possible future of the music industry.

We shared innovators’ insights in our “Innovating Music” podcast. We have launched a new Innovation Advisory Council where we brought in our first Innovation Fellow, Dae Bogan, who helped us launch our Music Innovation Summer Institute. During our Summer Institute, three panels debated the impacts of millennial startups, metadata, and the politics surrounding creative rights on the music industry.

We now are getting ready for our Music 2020 conference on Oct. 20th with Digital Hollywood, where we will discuss the drivers, new technologies, and solutions leading the music industry towards a positive, intentional future. We are also working towards launching our Music Foresight Project for 2017, where our collaborative research teams will explore possible outcomes for the music industry and see how we can encourage and affect them.


Gigi Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director of the UCLA Center for Music Innovation at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

For tickets to Music 2020 with Digital Hollywood, click here.